Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: AP

I hope that over the last two weeks some of you have considered starting an educational blog or have at least mulled over the possibility for your own personal outpourings. Do give it a try this summer if you’ve got some time to spare. Writing can be so cathartic and liberating. In fact, I find that writing is an ideal stress-buster after a frenzied day at school or after I’ve had an experience that I’d like to share with others.

This week I am going to list for you a couple of issues all greenhorn educational bloggers should keep in mind while starting an educational blog. There’s so much more to writing a blog post than just writing a blog post. Know what I mean?

As tempting as it may seem to become an educational blogger, there is a lot more than meets the eye; it takes a lot of planning and loads of effort in order for it to make the desired and purposeful impact you’ve been hoping for all along.

All those insightful posts that we read on well recognized blogs don’t just appear out of those tiny liquid crystal particles that make up your computer screen, they take thought, planning and a lot of re-do’s and revisions. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Your blog should be appealing

Your blog site must have a personality of its own and the best part is that you get to decide on how to do that. As a teacher your role in creating the climate for this online learning environment is crucial. Your students must want to keep coming back and only you can make sure that happens.

The vibe that your blog gives out will also depend largely on how respectful your students are to each other. While the teacher is encouraged to take a back-seat and allow free and frank discussion online, you must be a visible presence too; monitoring posts and comments, giving feedback and being generally available for technical and/or other kinds of support.

Encouraging participation

One of the key components of your blog will be the freedom you give your students to voice their opinions on topics related to your blog’s overall subject matter. Don’t be afraid to add your individual ideas to stimulate critical questioning and discussion. The strength of an educational blog comes from the comfort of its online community.

Correct use of the ‘Comment’ tool!

Review and respond to the comments your students are leaving. Never lose sight of the fact that ‘new learning’ must take place on an educational blog and in order for that to happen, students must provide thoughtful and reflective commentary. In my own experience I have had some pupils writing in with comments such as ‘I like this post’ or a simple ‘I agree’.

Comments such as these do nothing for literacy and definitely do not add value to the interactions taking place online. Students must be taught and encouraged that their comments must reflect an understanding of the content and clear views and opinions that are based on facts and research. With time you will see that having their opinions visible on such a public forum will force them to take stock of their literacy skills and work towards presenting their thoughts in a sophisticated and well controlled manner.

Connect with the extended community

People all over believe that children learn best through collaboration and your blog is a perfect avenue to facilitate exactly that. There are a mindboggling number of edu-bloggers and blog users out there just waiting to connect and collaborate with your from across the world. Encouraging this kind of collaboration will bring the world inside your classroom and make for an engaging exchange of ideas.

You may even consider inviting parents and others whom you know to contribute to your blog. How you engage and involve them will depend on how comfortable you are with the blog and with having them on board too.

The tremendous ease with which one can use a blog effectively in the classroom has made blogging one of the most widely used web 2.0 tools in the world. At this point in time the biggest challenges you face in bringing EdTech into your classrooms could also be the biggest opportunity to revolutionize your methods and teaching strategies.

I won’t sugar-coat it and say that using EdTech is a child’s play. It is tough; it takes time and needs some effort at first. But if you’re optimistic and ready to learn new ways to engage 21st century learners then log in and get involved. The payoff will be unparalleled, you’ll see!

Sydney Michael Atkins is an English teacher at the Gems Modern Academy, Dubai